‘No space to live and work’. Belarus police after Belsat TV crew

Belarus policemen give no peace to Brest-based Belsat TV contributors Milana Kharytonava and Ales Lyauchuk.

On October 8, when Liauchuk was going home, his neighbours said the police were hiding in the stairwell.

“Yet I came in. A district police officer from Kamenets and an employee of Leninski district police department of Brest were waiting for me. They were about to give protocols under Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code to my wife and me. They wanted me to go with them, but I refused. Moreover, I did not sign the protocol. As a result, the police left,” the journalist said.

According to Lyauchuk, the reason for making the protocols was their contributing to a news item about preparations for the harvest festival in the village of Vysokaye:

The authorities’ actions are nothing but the revenge on him for his professional activities, the journalist believes.

“Every time our leaving Brest as part of our journalistic duties results in drawing a protocol upon us. They are on our back, they give us no space to live and work,” Lyauchuk added.

Because of the work in the ‘partisan’ conditions, Belsat employees are often on trial for illegal production of media materials (Article 22.9) and work without accreditation. In 2017 alone, Belsat contributors paid to the state as much as $14,000 in fines. According to BAJ, last year, 94% of fines for alleged illegal manufacturing of media materials fell on the journalists of Belsat.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly declared that it could not issue any accreditation to Belsat because the journalists working for the TV station … break the law.

Thus, the circle closes: journalists are denied accreditation because they break the law and they break the law, because they work without accreditation that they seek. And it explains the existence of absurdist Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code, which provides punishment for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’. If you have accreditation, you are allowed be a journalist. If you do not have it – you are outlawed.

For the year to date, fines exceeding $ 32,000 have been imposed on our journalists by the Belarusian authorities.